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Military marriage myths: It's not what it looks like

There are many misconceptions about what it's like to be a military spouse coping with major challenges such as deployment.
There are many misconceptions about what it's like to be a military spouse coping with major challenges such as deployment.
Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images

Civilians and those just entering the military world have many pre-conceived notions about military families. The list below is just a sampling of a vast supply of ideas and stigmas associated with military marriages and families, as well as facts based upon experience and research that dispel these common misperceptions:

1) Military spouses can't have careers: Many military spouses do choose to have children instead of steady careers. The average duration of a military assignment is 3 years, according to a Blue Star Families Survey, which makes it difficult for the spouse who is not a service member to get firmly settled in any position. But these days, the average employee stays on the job 4.4 years, according to Forbes.com, making the military spouse come in at a bit less of at a disadvantage. In addition, many companies, such as USAA, Verizon, and Capital One, have initiatives in place to hire military spouses. Their opportunities include work from home jobs that enable flexibility. Since these are national companies, many of their jobs are transferrable-- spouses can keep them as they move to a new assignment. Some spouses also choose to commit to direct sales positions via companies like Mary Kay, Rodan & Fields, and the like. While not for everyone, many spouses on military bases can be found investing their time and energy in forming networks around their direct sales businesses. Finally, there is the freelance/entrepreneur alternative, which allows flexibility, creativity, and most importantly, enables individuals to take advantage of their unique skill sets as military spouses.

2) Military marriages don't last: A RAND Corporation/DOD study cited in a 2013 Huffington Post article about military divorce indicates that long deployments increase the risk of divorce. In addition, a 2012 article in Stars & Stripes indicates a 3.7% divorce rate among military members, while the divorce rate in the U.S. (as of 2014) is at 3.6 per 1,000 population, according to the CDC. Divorce rate among the military is barely higher. Considering the frequency of deployments and financial obstacles many military families face, this is a remarkable testament to the resiliency of military marriages. There's also encouragement to be found in the resources available to families on military installations. Family readiness centers on every installation (names vary by military branch, from Airman & Family Readiness Center to Marine Corps Community Service) exist for many reasons. One of them is to provide resources to military families to ensure that couples who want to make it work, can make it work.

3) Military members and their spouses are unfaithful because they are apart so frequently: This issue was highlighted largely in the wake of General Petraeus' affair, and the sense of scandal it fostered in and outside of the military community. It's a common concern, but military communities are just a microcosm of society as a whole. Infidelity is a concern inside and outside of the military. If an individual is going to cheat, they certainly do not need to be in the military to do it. Further, with divorce rates mimicking those of the U.S. as a whole, there doesn't seem to be any larger issue with marriage stability within the military.

Military marriages are resilient, and all the more so because of a plethora of resources available to help them on military installations and through non-profit organizations. The larger struggles military marriages face come in the form of issues that are much less the subject of scrutiny, such as wounded warriors and the spouses who care for them. It's a point of pride for many service members and their significant others that they have sustained happy and healthy marriages, and for good reason. In an ever-changing environment filled with new jobs, new friends, and new houses, marriage offers a source of stability, comfort, and belonging.